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LIVE FROM THE HEADLINES

Democrats Chide Clinton For Defending President Bush

Aired July 23, 2003 - 19:41   ET

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.

ANDERSON COOPER, CNN ANCHOR: All right. Former president Bill Clinton is drawing the wrath of some of his fellow Democrats. The former president is being criticized for calling an end to the firestorm over Mr. Bush and his State of the Union misstatement on Iraq's weapons of mass destruction.
In a telephone interview on CNN's "LARRY KING LIVE," Clinton said, and I quote, "Everybody makes mistakes when they're president. You can't make as many calls as you have to make without messing up. The thing we ought to be focused on is, what is the right thing to do now? That's what I think," end quote.

Here to assess how America views a Democratic former president defending his Republican successor are radio talk show host Nancy Skinner in Chicago and syndicated columnist Armstrong Williams in Washington.

Both of you, appreciate you joining us.

Nancy, let me start off with you. How surprised were you by President Clinton's statements, and did it make sense to you?

NANCY SKINNER, RADIO TALK SHOW HOST: Well, he's half right. We should be focusing on how we clean up this mess, Anderson, because there was not sufficient planning going into this for a postwar Iraq. And now we have to get more troops on the ground, and absolutely, that means going to the U.N., getting more troops, getting more money (UNINTELLIGIBLE)...

COOPER: But is it time to move on from this State...

SKINNER: But I...

COOPER: ... of the Union brouhaha?

SKINNER: OK, so, so, you know what? He said it was a mistake. I disagree. Nine words got him impeached. It wasn't just the 16 words. And we can't move on until, A, we know what went wrong, and it's still unclear, and two...

COOPER: All right. Armstrong Williams...

SKINNER: ... who, who was (UNINTELLIGIBLE)?

COOPER: ... what do you think, is it time to move on? ARMSTRONG WILLIAMS, SYNDICATED COLUMNIST: You know, Anderson, I think that much of America has moved on. They understand that President Bush admitted that there were mistakes made, Stephen Hadley, who is the deputy national security adviser, laid the blame at his feet, (UNINTELLIGIBLE)...

COOPER: So who is it who hasn't moved on? Is it the media, is the Democratic candidates?

WILLIAMS: (UNINTELLIGIBLE) Nancy Skinner and a few. And I think the president was showing that still, after serving this country for eight years, that he understands how many of these decisions are made, sometimes in a vacuum, and sometimes you make mistakes. But you got to go ahead and look at the big picture.

He realizes that President Bush should not be prosecuted in the media and other places for nine simple words. The president made that admission, but we need to move on to larger issues, (UNINTELLIGIBLE)...

COOPER: Nancy Skinner, do...

SKINNER: You know what?

WILLIAMS: ... like the issues in Iraq.

SKINNER: This is...

COOPER: Do you think the Democratic...

SKINNER: ... (UNINTELLIGIBLE)...

COOPER: Let me ask you, do you think the nine Democratic candidates are going to be willing to move on? I mean, they seem to have sunk...

SKINNER: No.

COOPER: ... their teeth into this thing and are...

SKINNER: And it's their job...

COOPER: ... running with is.

SKINNER: ... and it's their job to look at national security and look at how this administration has performed in national security. And if they can do better, to talk about it.

It wasn't just one mistake. Lookit, it was the -- not just the uranium thing that was wrong. It was the uranium tubes that was proven false, it was the biological labs that was proven false, it was the connection to al Qaeda.

COOPER: Do you think this is an (UNINTELLIGIBLE), do you think this is an issue Democratic candidates can win in? Win with?

SKINNER: I think that -- I think it's -- Forget about winning and politics. We...

COOPER: Well, come on, that's what I, I mean...

SKINNER: ... (UNINTELLIGIBLE) we were told...

COOPER: ... they're running for office for president. I mean, that's what they want to do.

SKINNER: But, but, but see, yes, OK. Now, but their job is to say, How can I better serve you as (UNINTELLIGIBLE) to protect you in terms of national security? We were led to war based on a whole bunch of garbage. And so it is all of us -- should be all of our concerns as Americans that this never happen again.

And who was responsible for it?

WILLIAMS: Garbage?

COOPER: All right. Armstrong...

WILLIAMS: (UNINTELLIGIBLE)...

SKINNER: Yes, a lot of of it...

COOPER: ... (UNINTELLIGIBLE) final thought, very briefly...

SKINNER: ... was garbage.

COOPER: ... is President Clinton going to be in the doghouse with the other Democrats for this, or do they -- do they need him too bad?

WILLIAMS: No, he's not, because they need Clinton more than he needs them. The fact is that he spoke as a former president. He has tremendous respect. They need him.

COOPER: All right.

WILLIAMS: And eventually this issue will die, and so will...

SKINNER: I love how now you love Clinton...

WILLIAMS: ... Nancy Skinner's position.

SKINNER: ... now you love him.

COOPER: We're going to leave it there. Armstrong Williams, Nancy Skinner, thanks very much.

SKINNER: You bet.

COOPER: All right.

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